Before you read this review, I'd like to tell you that there's no spoiler or walkthrough in this article. I truly think that there's no need for walkthrough in playing this game. Just enjoy this article and if you have a question, just shoot me an email at Modern Jamming contact page.
Combining game with movie has been around for years. In fact, the first game that used movie inside the game was released in arcades back in 1983, and it's entitled with Dragon's Lair. It still uses Laserdiscs to store all the videos used inside the game and along with this game, some of other similar games were also released using this kind of genre that now called as FMV or Full Motion Video.
We now have come to an agreement that this kind of game isn't a new concept. In 1990s, there was even a sport game that used FMV in its game. It's entitled with NFL's Greatest: San Francisco vs. Dallas 1978-1993. In that game, you will decide your plays and the game will show you how your choice would play out, in a real motion video.
However, the gaming industry has evolved so much, FMV wasn't game developers favorite anymore. With today 3D technology, you can get a fantastic real life feeling, a more interactive and less repititve gameplay. That's not like the old days when FMV was a favorite because they can give this real life feeling in the game.
Despite all the limitations that was found in FMV games, Sam Barlow, the lead designer as well as writer of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, has no doubt with his latest murder solving game, Her Story.
Her Story: The Premise
The game starts with an old computer interface, feels like an old windows OS with old CRT monitor. You will be playing as a girl whose trying to search something from the old police database, called as LOGIC database.
In this LOGIC database, you will get video footages transferred from the old Homicide & Serious Crime tape archive at Porstmouth. However, because of the Y2K, some of the footages are lost. The data that's left has been automatically sorted with ASR technology and can be retrieved by typing in a word.
Up the front in the Search Term(s) to retrieve archived footage, you will get "MURDER" as the first word. There are four clips that will explain to you the overall mystery in this game, and now it's up to you to search the right query and solve this murder case right away.
Her Story: The Gameplay
Her Story is an FMV game, so each clip features a real video footage, shot by Sam Barlow and narrated by the gorgeous Viva Seiferd. Each time you do a query, you will get five first video footage available to watch. So the more precise your query is, the more intriguing video you will get.
Her Story uses vintage theme at its core. So, beside the OS interface, the CRT and its reflection, the video footages are also recorded with VHS style, sort of grain effect from 90s handycam, complete with the vintage fashion.
There are total seven interviews with the same lady, broken into 600+ parts that captured her statement. From her background story, her social life, her favorite thing to do, and people around her. It's a complete story about her life and played really well by Viva.
Her Story played in an open-ended game. There are no particular ending about the story, you will have an open role as the detective here. You connect the dots by listening to the interviews. There are nothing and simply nothing will tell you how close you are in resolving the mystery. It's up to your deduction and even you and me, can have different conclusion.
Her Story in Mobile Device
Her Story is released not only in mobile devices, but also in PC as a Steam version. While the product quality remains the same, playing Her Story in mobile devices actually give a different experience.
In PC and iPad, you can obviously get a better view at Viva's mimic and acting since you get a larger screen. However, having a 4:3 aspect ratio clearly doesn't work that well in a smaller screen like iPhone. Resulting black dead pixels in both side of the screen.
The keyboard popup also subtract the vintage experience of the whole game. Well, the flat design really doesn't work well with the game design. So perhaps you might want to check this custom keyboard, if you're that kind of person, that is.
Despite all that limitation in smaller screen like iPhone, all the experiences are still there. You can still enjoy watching the interview with Viva, play the subtitle if you don't want to disturb people beside you while they sleep? Of course, the sounds of typing when querying keywords are all well executed.
Her Story is rated 17+ in the AppStore, stated it's a game for mature audiences. It certainly is a game that doesn't suit up for kids. Viva has cursed several times in the game, she also told a story that you don't want your kids refer to.
Although it doesn't contain any mature graphics, there are several scenes like when Viva's yelling to the officer that's not suitable for kids. It is also a story about life of adults, so there are some adult words and references there. So if you're parents that really take concern about their kids, I really suggest you put this game in the device that's unreachable by your kids.
Like many mystery game, music plays a huge part in creating shivers in your spine. Just by her statement alone, you will have mixed feeling. Sad, feeling funny, confused, even amazed by her personality. That and the music behind will create a dynamic feeling throughout the game.
Sometimes the music also responds accordingly to the interview situation. If it's a key statement, you will get some cue. And since it's an open ended game, you need this kind of cue and taking it as an important note.
Why I Love 'Her Story'
Her Story really takes story as their sole spear of selling point. The story is truly remarkable and the way Viva played it, I think that Her Story wouldn't be a better game if they didn't use FMV as their base.
I ensure you now, after you've finished the game, or at least solve this mystery, you will be doubting your own conclusion, and when you try to check what other think about their own conclusion, then you start to realize how even more awesome this game is.
The query (search query) also works like a charm. Everything that said by Viva, it can be queried. Not only that, you can even sharpen your query with adding more words into it, for example Abraham and Natasha, and if there's a video that contains these words, it will be shown.
The way Sam writes the story also quite intriguing. Despite only focusing on the murder case, slowly but sure, Her Story revealing bits by bits the character of the game. This revelation creates a more intimate connection between me the player and Viva as the sole actress in this game. I simply couldn't see Viva as the same person the way I saw her previously in her Facebook page. That's how deep the connection is.
Also, with a nonlinear structure, where the video footages are separated from each other, I was forced to think broadly, connecting one video with another. My emotion was also played, sometimes I feel like the character is adorable, but after some videos, it's a different feeling.
Her Story is a fantastic game with deep story, great attention to detail, and a game wrapped in a beautiful package altogether. If only one thing that I need from this game, it's another additional episode that reveals more about the character. Her Story is one of the best connect the dots game I've ever played and man, even if you're not a fan of mystery game, I'd still recommend this game for you to try, just to enjoy the story and share some after thought with me.
About Sam Barlow
Sam Barlow is a video game director, best known as the writer and designer of the two British Silent Hill games, Silent Hill: Origins and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. He currently works as a Game Director at Climax Studios in the UK. Her Story is the second game that has been developed by Sam, after Aisle in 1999. You can check Sam's life and story in his twitter and Her Story's blog.
Of course, I'd like to thank Mr. Sam Barlow for allowing me to write an honest review by providing Her Story to me.